Home Featured Special Sunday Edition: The Modern Day Black Male Athlete

Special Sunday Edition: The Modern Day Black Male Athlete

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I was chatting it up with Sprads the other day about how I thought Mayweather was an absolute joke.  I didn’t disagree with him when he said, he’s an excellent business mind, but I thought the way he did it was just through a series of gimmicks.  I look at Mayweather and I compare him to the boxers that I respect and I just came to the conclusion, Mayweather is a different breed of a Black athlete.  There’s nothing about Mayweather that resembles the persona of Ali, Joe Louis, or Sugar Ray Leonard, nothing.  Mayweather is absorbed in himself and his pockets, he’s not concerned with the progression of Black people in America or is he trying to be a model citizen.  The fact of the matter is, he is not alone.  This holds true for many of our Black athletes today.

In the past, athletes used to stand for something, they used to use their fans for good.  You don’t have Black athletes like that anymore.  I was reading Bill Rhoden’s book, 40 Million Dollar Slaves, and I thought to myself, you know what’s funny is, we can’t really fault these athletes.  There used to be a time when athletes stood up for themselves and they got free agency and more money, but now they’re right back in the same situation as before … slaves to a contract.  Well when you look at Black people in America you’ll notice the same thing, we’re all just modern day share croppers.  We fought for the abolishment of slavery, but now I bet you that 90% of us are working for some white guy again, who is only telling us everyday, “Not enough, keep working.”  However, when I really think about it, I expect more out of Black male athletes than I expect out of the blue collar working professional.  First off, they make WAY more money, and second, they have a bigger reach, their voices are louder.

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It goes back to Uncle Ben’s conversation with Pete, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

I would like to say that on the other side of this argument that’s missing is that many of these athletes have been enabled since Junior High School.  If you’ve ever watched the AAU circuit, when it’s discovered that a boy has any type of basketball skills and is 6’4” at age 12, he’s almost immediately snatched up and out of reality.  From the 8th grade until he hits the professional league, no one will ever tell him no, they are simply trying to facilitate their investment into a money making machine for their personal gain.  Do I think that somewhere along the way someone should have told Michael Vick and Allen Iverson, no?  Yes.  There’s no reason that there’s been countless incidents that occurred throughout their lives that no one raised a flag on.  Allen Iverson’s high school coach said that Iverson refused to practice and only wanted to play in the games.  He was a two sport Varsity athlete.  Explain that logically to me.  Don’t worry I’ll wait.  You can’t later on complain that kid won’t practice.  Vick’s own family members bought the dogs for him, but when he went to jail the only thing they could do was reach out to news channels and collect money for giving a personal account of Michael Vick’s story.  So perhaps, the public and the community is partial to blame for the malfeasance from overpaid miscreants.

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Despite all that, it has to stop.  The run-ins with the law have to stop.  The idiotic press conferences have to stop.  The lack of real involvement in your community has to stop.  Do not do the service because it makes you appear to be a model citizen and increases your superstar status.  The NBA Cares commercials are a complete joke.  Take it from me, I’m a member of an organization that has done service for years, we never talked about it, we just did it because it needed to get done.  We are in an era where the media is way more interested in the private lives of public figures and tries to tear everyone down.  Let me explain that to you, that’s because deep down, as Americans we need to feel that someone is worse off than us to make us feel good about ourselves.  It’s the media’s attempt at giving you self-esteem.

However, athletes need to stay out of the news for DUIs, marijuana possession, weapons possession, domestic disputes, fighting, public intoxication, reckless driving, infidelity, sex tapes and pictures, and everything else that keeps coming across our news feeds.  If you want to be in the news for something, be in the news for doing something positive and uplifting.  And you shouldn’t have your jersey on for the special, you should be there because it’s furthering the cause, not your career.  While I’m sure that per-1000 Black males the athletes are not the ones being locked up the most or commiting the harshest crimes, their offenses are the ones that get digested by the public.  In 2012 it would be a tragedy for any Black male athlete to be operating under the assumption that sports and entertainment are not the most frequented source of knowledge for understanding Black males in America.  We simply have to do better.


  1. Great post, Dr. Jay. I agree completely. The same can be said for some of our favorite black male rappers or actors. Why is T.I. spending $100G's on a damn brunch for getting out of jail? And all of that community service ish he did on his reality t.v. show. BS. I would rather black male athletes and entertainers who get in trouble to just be quiet once they get out. No press conferences, no media appearances. If you want to do service to your community, do it. Stop talking about it and be about it.
    My recent post My Love Is Like…

  2. I can’t agree with this article more if I tried. The irony is that many of these athletes will rebel against the people that have their genuine best interests at heart, but will roll over for the people who enable them and exploit them.

  3. I agree that the the problem is many of these athletes are deprived of adolescent experiences that give you the tools to handle money and fame. First, the game has changed and many are drafted right out of college (bare with me because I am operating with very little knowledge on sports as a business). How is a 18 year old given the power to make such a big career decision and sign contracts with millions of dollars? And even in High School there is so much buzz about the boy that he probably isn't given free time to have Saturday jobs or things that will build character. And while sports and supposed to be great for building skills like handling loss, teamwork, sportsmanship etc, that is over shadowed when you add celebrity and the ability for a kid to get big-headed at 17. I honestly rather most got to college before entering the league.

    Another problem is that these athletes are famous for a period of time and then we never hear of their lives after the NBA/NFL etc. Don't 70% of NFL players go broke within a short time of leaving the NFL? Same for NBA players. Yet kids don't see that. They see them at their height. And some kids may be oblivious to the unsavory events such as DUIs etc that make the papers.

    On top of that. It seems like players that actually try to be good people are belittled for it. God forbid to work hard not to cheat on our wife or be anything less than a good role model….

    My recent post Tell ‘Em Why You Mad!!

    1. There is no athlete that is allowed to go directly to the league besides baseball players (and they go to a farm system first were very lil money is made) both major sports nfl and nba you have to go to college first.

      1. Really? I always thought they could choose either way. Did LeBron James go to college? Because I hear pretty often about how he went straight to the NBA. I honestly though a player can be drafted as soon as they urn 18…
        My recent post Tell ‘Em Why You Mad!!

        1. NFL you must be 3 years removed from your H.S. graduation class. College seniors, juniors or red-shirt sophomores are draft eligible.

        1. You must be at least 1 year removed from your graduating class from H.S. and at least 19 years old . Brandon Jennings didn't go straight to the NBA after H.S. Like you mentioned he went to play pro overseas first for a whole year before he was eligible for the NBA draft. This rule change was enacted back in 2005 or there abouts which is why those before (LeBron, Kobe, Garnett. etc..) were allowed to make the jump from H.S. straight to the pros.

      2. Not true…tennis, golf, hockey to name a few where you may turn pro without having to attend a college or university or wait until you are 1-3 year s removed from your H.S. graduating class.

        The major sports, though, college is not a requirement…just a certain amount of time after your H.S. class graduates. 98% of them go to college, though, since it's the best platform to market your talents to would be employers…oh and to get a college education, too..lol.

  4. I know you asked me (us) to contribute to this post but it stands by itself. Good stuff. I dont really have much to add and had I had to write, I'm not sure what I would have said now because what I had in mind didnt fit this context in the least.

    The only question/point I'd like to make though is in regards to the media. I'm sure there are plenty of athletes – I'm assuming – who do right, stay out the news for doing wrong, give back to the community, etc. etc. but those are not the athletes that are covered by the press and I'm sure that's not a coincidence. In other words, not only is the focus only on the top atheletes, the Mayweather's if you will, the media tends to slant their coverage towards those athletes that not only call attention to themselves but also only call bad attention.

    This, in my opinion, goes beyond sports and is really a reflection of "news" coverage as it stands today. It's pretty sad but, like everyone, I know they're just trying to make money and they know those are the stories that will get clicks, RTs and Facebook likes. It has become a self fulfilling prophecy where the media feeds us BS because BS is what gets read. To a point, this generation essentially expects BS from the media, athletes, large companies, etc.

    ….it's sad.

    1. All of this right here is on point. The media has the ability to shape perception and what is constitutes as important or news worthy. However, like you said, just bc it's not reported on (i.e. positive uplifting stories) doesn't mean it doesn't happen or does not make an impact. What's almost as sad is when the media DOES do a story about someone giving back or doing positive things first thing people will think is, "Oh he's just doing this for the publicity…he's fronting for the camera…" etc, etc…some people can't win for losing.

    2. Great point. I agree. And as an aside, I actually live in Floyd's hometown, and I've had the chance to witness first hand what he does for his community here, even after so many years removed and no shortage of negative emotion from the locals who knew him prior to success. The media slant against Floyd's accomplishments is what I take issue with more than the slant against him, because in recent years it's one he has knowingly contributed to himself in his role as a successful promoter… one the original poster is also contributing to btw.

  5. great post man. i agree that athletes aren't what they used to be. once upon a time athletes were committed to their sport as well as the progression of black people in general. athletes weren't afraid to make politically charged statements or speak their mind. athletes nowadays just don't do that. they're more concerned with self and how much money they can make.
    My recent post Cole World/Charity Starts at Home

    1. I agree and disagree with this to a certain extent. Usually, the two things in the work place that are not suppose to be talked about at length are religion and politics. The fact that some athletes prefer to dodge a questioin revolving around politics or not speak publically about it I really can't blame 'em. You see what happened to Rashard Menenhal when he tweeted about his opinion on 9/11 and the such. $1 MM contract from Russell Athletics…evaporated. I would like to see more athletes speak out on certain issues, but if they don't I can't say I'd be upset at that decision.

    2. Also, I'd say that athletes are committed to the progression of black people in a certain way…many athletes associate with themselves or start up programs for young inner-city black youth to give them the opportunity to better themselves that they wouldn't have otherwise….you don't have to be an Ali type outspoken individual to promote progression within a people.

  6. Dr. Jay you couldn't have said it better. Athletes sometime can be a slave to the whole world of sports and entertainment and never reap any type of benefits happened in the past and it is happening now with all these lockouts happening in different sports. Letting the athletes know whose in charge. I am reading this book called Basketball Slave The Andy Johnson Harlem Globetrotter/NBA story who hits on the points you just mentioned in this post and then some on how the Harlem Globetrotters were ambassadors for the world and how they made the NBA in the money making machine they are today and the harlem globetrotters have yet to receive any type of benefits from it.

  7. This article is very true and touched on some good points, but since I work with these professional athletes everyday I have to say a bit unfair. Just cause you make alot of money and people see you on tv shouldn't be the reason you stay out of trouble and give back to the community. Athletes are just a small portion of black american males this lesson should be for everyone. It needs to stop for everyone and trust its even worse for black males that aren't gifted in athleticism. I read somewhere this week that 59% of all black boys in the 2nd grade cant read, thats a shame and who is really going to help them and make sure they get the help they need no one, but see if that lil boy is a gifted athlete somewhere along they way he will at least get a chance to be helped cause folks will do everything they need to do to make sure he is eligible to play.
    I hate the fact that we put so much pressure on athletes why cause they do something they are good at, cause they are on tv, cause they make alot of money, so what its plenty of other black males that do the exact same thing get caught up in schemes and other mess, having tons of woman not being responsible and everything else and nobody is telling them they need to do better.
    All of society needs to change not just the black male athlete.

    1. I feel you, which is why I put some points in there about being enabled. But to me it just comes back to "with great power comes great responsibility." Their voice is louder so they should have more responsbility.

      But we are telling all society, not just the athletes. This post was about them today, but it could be about the general public another day.
      My recent post My First Blog (The Final post on The Book of Jackson)

    2. I work with the Black Male Athlete as well and the conversations I have with them, the majority of them feel that feel like they are warranted to help and change but due to restrictions they are not allowed to do certain things.

  8. Good post here, man.

    "There used to be a time when athletes stood up for themselves and they got free agency and more money, but now they’re right back in the same situation as before … slaves to a contract. "

    With the current NBA lockout threatening the entire season and the NFL lockout before this I'd say the athletes are still standing up for what they want to be fair through their collective bargaining rights. At the same time the Owners are standing up for themselves ,too..never forget that. As far as 'slaves to a contract' I guess Peyton Manning is the biggest slave in the NFL since he has the largest contract.

    1. (cont…)

      Now most of the more popular black athletes I am familiar with have started their own kind of charitable foundation and donate to along with other charities and are associated with many positive causes. I'm not going to sit here and judge whether the person is doing it genuinely or not. The fact he took action and is doing it at the least is more than many others with money that aren't as famous are doing.

      The points you made though is why I don't understand why people hate on everything LeBron James does. I mean I get it…"take my talents to South Beach" talk..and win 7 rings..whatever. Off the court, though, he does many positive things. (multiple charities, camps, starting his own marketing/PR firm, etc…) . No one really celebrates those things though when it comes to him…but oh well.

      Athletes aren't as outspoken today about the progression, true…however, to be fair the Ali's of the world came from a time when there was a huge civil rights movement so it wasn't uncommon for anyone famous to speak out. So today's athlete may not be outspoken, but they do speak.

  9. I will comment on this with a clear head… Kudos for using your platform to shed light on this… If you are gonna be around to spea on Sunday… Let a brotha know….


  10. I don't think it's fair that you ask black professional athletes to be anything more than what they are: professionals. In the general scope, they've worked longer at their craft before becoming professionals than doctors. They've created jobs and generated billions, and yet people expect them not to have a sense of entitlement to the relatively small things they are entitled to. Floyd Mayweather is not a role model, he is a boxer by trade, and a promoter by skill, wit and fortune. Their isn't a thing he's done in either case that doesn't further his profession, be it boxing or promotion. Long story short, he does the job he's qualified to do. As do most athletes of color.

    The fact is, Floyd is even less equipped than the average Joe Schmoe to effectively enact social change, and the average Joe Schmoe is far less than equipped. Our leaders at times have great difficulty following the road I suspect from this article you'd like athletes to traverse. Jesse Jackson isn't always spot on, and he has decades of experience diagnosing the ills of Black America.

    I think the idea for us, as black folks, should be to negate any weight our celebrities have in matters outside of their chosen profession in terms of their representation of black folk. It's easier for us to publicly denounce and write off blatant coons like Snoop Dogg as blatant coons than it is for us to expect that he will one day, at some point do something that reflects positively on us. The same applies to our athletes. Of course they're enabled, they do something very few people can do. There are only about 420 roster spots in the NBA including reserves, drawing from a talent pool that literally spans the world. If you are one of those exceptional 420, just from a basic math point of view, there is value in that. If there were 420 people in the world carried an antibody for AIDS or whatever, they would be equally valued, at least. We enable the greatest amongst us to achieve greatness, because outside of all of our great accomplishment of being the fastest swimmer in 500,000 at conception, it isn't something most of us will ever experience except vicariously.

    I don't condone the behavior of entitled athletes outside of the job they are paid to do, but then I don't condone us shining a light on what those athletes do outside of work either. You'd be pissed if your boss followed you home and watched you talk reckless shit with your homeboys after you clocked out, then judged you as a worker based on what you did outside of work. We do that to athletes. And if we're to do that, I would at least hope that we the people would be able to keep the modicum of perspective it takes to recognize they may not be great at anything but boxing, or basketball, but that's what we come to them for. Not the extra.

    1. Your outside-the-office analogy was spot on…I always feel like if what a player does outside of those 4 qtrs of the game isn't effecting what he's being paid to do, who cares? Barring putting their professional talent at risk, I think the media can sometimes make mountains out of mole hills when it comes to certain players (like the D. Wade vs David Stern situation the other day)…in the bigger picture, I think the only aspect that should be up for criticism/debate is the job they do at their "office"
      My recent post She Roots For Your Rival Team

  11. I agree! By the way, this song kinda reminds me of that Varsity Blues song by Wale.

    But I used to talk to my ex about this all the time. I do view professional sports a sort of modern day slavery, draft picks are similar to when they use to stand the slaves of the stage and pick and choose, swap, make bids on. Its come full circle.

    I don't really have any suggestions on what people can do better. I'm so far removed from that industry, ya know?
    My recent post Random ramblings, I suppose

  12. Great post..I think alot of young black men (rich&not) are more so in the dark about whats happening in today's society. Money, Power, Sucess can only take you so far. They really are just pawns/slaves..sad ish 🙁

    & If any of this is a repeat from a comment earlier..my bad!

  13. Although I do know a handful of responsible-acting athletes, I agree with whole-heartedly this post. Like someone said earlier, this should apply to all the celebrity-like professionals (rappers) acting like hot-damn fools! It makes my asshole itch to see how these so-called men act! Going to jail and coming out like they were on some kind of extended vacation? I'm not saying you have to be on some super deep level, but just be about something. And what's so troubling about this is that this type of behavior is being exposed to young children, some of which only have these "men" to look up to. Not cool.

    But like you said, Dr. J., this behavior started early and snowballed into this mess.

  14. Great article! I'll have to pick up that book…but your post makes me think of Steve Stoute's book…corporate brands are invested into a multi-billion dollar business, so they pursue the athletes that are most closely familiar to the young buying power (our blk male youth)…I mean you really only have an elite group of blk athletes (I'd say maybe 20-25 across the 3 major sports) in which the media monitors every single move they make…so I think we tend to hear more about upper echelon athletes b/c they have way more to lose given their business relationships…The other thing is some of those said athletes aren't much older than the youth who look up to them…so b/c they've coddled for most of their lives by people who had something to gain by them "making it big", they don't know how to be role models to the generation of kids coming behind them…it's a vicious cycle

    The 1 thing your article didn't touch on though was the responsibility of blk-owned media in the negative portrayal of blk athletes…from what I've observed, the major "urban blogs" would rather post about user-submitted groupie stories and post an athlete's naked pics than do a post about the charity game where a bunch of NBA players are donating their time to hit up FIU next Monday to play for charity…it's the little things that if we really cared about showcasing the positive blk male athlete image, we'd contribute to boosting it
    My recent post She Roots For Your Rival Team


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